Michael Gascoigne is wealthy, decent and boring. He is locked into a routine of working as Secretary to his gentleman’s club, Grouchers, in Mayfair, or else stalking deer on his estate in Perthshire: someone whose idea of an adrenaline rush is playing bridge after dinner.
Elizabeth, his wife has married him – not exactly for his money, not exactly for love either. Their marriage is passionless and monotonous. On their honeymoon night, Michael’s first though is to hand his trouser in a trousers press. Dreary weeks are spent in the dank and gloomy house in a Scottish glen, Beinn Caorrun, that Michael inherited from his parents.
Then, on a visit to friends in Ireland, something appears to trigger a change in Michael’s behaviour. On the way back, Elizabeth tells herself: ‘there was something different about Michael.’ And there is. Life with Michael suddenly becomes so much more fun, more passionate, they spent hours talking, a surprise getaway in Rome… and Elizabeth sees glimpses of a man she could finally fall in love with.
But strange things began to happen. During one of those gentlemen club casual meetings, Michael snarled and passionately refutes the origins of Britons. Peter Robinson, Michael’s closest friend had lobby for supports of Mr. Patel nomination to Grouchers, which creates an uproar amongst club members who cited:
A great many members here don’t want to be shaken up. They don’t want to be modernised. That’s why they are members here in the first place. We all just want to preserve a little piece of England, here in Mayfair, where English people can speak and behave as their fathers did, without being apologetic, or politically correct or embarrassed by each other.
Michael concludes that the Mitochondrial DNA, maternal genetic inheritance, resembles that of the ancient Britons who originally populated this land at the end of the last Ice Age, somewhere in the Pyrenees, from the Mesolithic era, long before Celts, before the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings came. It’s the way Michael had defended his theory. His aggressiveness displayed was one that Elizabeth had never came across in her 10 years of marriage. Michael seems to talk to an imaginary friend all the time. Sometimes Elizabeth saw a dark-haired woman who appears on the windows or in the garden. Why does Michael shot a hostile glare to Alex Grant during the wedding and why the name of Stephen Gunnerton upsets him? Why is he reading about Serendipozan medication and symptoms of schizophrenia? What happen to Michael’s parents? Is it true his mother met an accident on a boat trip and his father disappears in the blizzard while out to save a boy? How long will the new changed Michael last? And who is Lamia, the name that Michael mutters in his sleep? But who – or what is changing Michael? Who is the girl on the landing? And what does she want?
My Verdict: 3.5/5
The book is separated by chapters which are narrated by both Michael and Elizabeth alternatively until the last quarter of the book we were left guessing about the whereabouts of Michael, and Elizabeth express her new found love for her husband. The book deals with the issue of mental illness, schizophrenia and medication that may alters patient’s personality. I find Elizabeth’s late awareness of her husband’s mental health history after a decade of marriage preposterous. However, the pace of the book is set nicely, first with the appearance of a dark haired lady who dress in dated costume, to the shocking discovery of Michael’s family and childhood history, to the possibility of Elizabeth walking into her demise with a psychopathic killer on the loose. A sensitive rendition of a dark subject,about being ‘normal’ and insane, about lost love and making a marriage works, about race and origins, albeit an unconclusive ending and we never knew if the Girl on the Landing that appears in the landscape picture on the wall is a ghost or a figments of Michael’s (and Elizabeth’s too) imagination. Pale in comparison to Salmon Fishing in Yemen, nevertheless a heart palpitating and enticing read.